Britain’s prime minister Theresa May has pushed for her Brexit draft deal to be approved by her divided cabinet as Eurosceptics warn that the agreement will lose her support of Tory MP and million of votes.
The emergency cabinet meeting held this Wednesday follows months of negotiations where the ‘no-deal’ scenario was recurrent. Cabinet ministers were given their first sight of the draft withdrawal treaty and an accompanying outline of a political declaration on the future EU/UK relationship on Tuesday evening.
The former foreign secretary, Lord Hague, said the cabinet should remain united and back the deal. But the former Conservative deputy prime minister, Lord Heseltine, believes the deal won’t pass muster – and another referendum will be required.
In Dublin, the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told parliament that EU leaders could get together in as little as 10 days to sign off on the deal.
“Obviously, a lot of things can go wrong today and over the next couple of days.”
An emergency EU summit has been pencilled if Theresa May’s Brexit deal emerges unscathed, he added.
“But, should the UK cabinet be in a position this afternoon to say that it’s content with the text, it is proposed that the Commission task force would be in a position, perhaps tonight, to publish the text – with the possibility, or probability, of an EU Council meeting around 25 November.”
The Democratic Unionist party, which supports May’s government, has also warned that it will not support the draft Brexit treaty. Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said her party could not back a deal that left Northern Ireland “adrift in the future”.
The Daily Telegraph’s chief political correspondent Christopher Hope tweeted that he heard two cabinet ministers will resign. The pair: international development secretary Penny Mordaunt, and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey.
This is putting the pound under a little pressure. Sterling has dipped back to $1.295 against the US dollar, having risen to $1.30 earlier.
Scotland pushes for fishing rights
In their letter to Theresa May, the 13 Scottish Tory MPs have made clear they could not support the draft deal without more assurances about the future of fishing in the country.
They say the prime minister had made statements that “raised expectations in the fishing industry that Brexit will lead to complete control and full sovereignty over domestic waters”.
And, as a result, they “could not support an agreement with the EU that would prevent the UK from independently negotiating access and quota shares”.
Financial services waiting
“Signs that the withdrawal agreement is finally taking shape are to a certain extent offset by the seemingly murkier parliamentary maths required to see the agreement through Parliament. If that test is passed as we still suspect, then the many items that have been kicked into the long grass of the transition period will then have to be faced by negotiators,” Will Hobbs, head of investment strategy at Barclays Smart Investor, said.
If not, then the unknown of hard Brexit will likely see both the UK economy and its related assets in for a more hair raising time for a while. As we’ve noted before, the intrinsic value of the stocks quoted on the UK’s exchanges tends to have little to do with the UK economy. However, sterling traders will feel differently and the currency’s related tribulations would temporarily shape related portfolio returns. The broad geographical and sectoral diversification inherent in our strategic asset allocation will likely prove an investor’s best defence in such an eventuality,” he added.
Speaking at King’s College London, the former Labour prime minister has compared the draft EU withdrawal treaty to a biscuit “coated in heavy fudge”.
It was “Brexit in theory but tied to Europe in reality, making a mockery of the reasons for leaving,” Tony Blair said.
Europe is cautions but hopeful
In Europe, German justice minister Katharina Barley criticised British Brexiteers for their opposition to the draft agreement between the UK and EU.
The politician – who is half-British – said: “There is hope for an orderly Brexit. It would be good for Britons and for European cohesion.
But she added: “Even before they see the agreement, the Brexiteers are vilifying it. They still don’t understand.”
France has voiced cautious optimism over the draft agreement. Benjamin Griveaux, a spokesman for the French government, said: “We see it as an encouraging sign, considering what we’ve seen in these last weeks and months.
“But we obviously remain very cautious.
“We will take the time to examine the proposed text in detail and there will be an agreement once the heads of state and government (of the EU member states) have had the opportunity to examine the details.”
Ambassadors from the EU27 are in a closed-door meeting where they have been briefed by Sabine Weyand, the deputy of chief EU negotiator Michael Barnier, on the state of talks.